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Cybersecurity Major Tests Crisis Management Skills While Running His Parents' Restaurant

A Cybersecurity Student working on his laptop

George Papageorgiou ’23 said staffing and food supply issues caused by COVID-19 made for a bumpy three weeks while stepping in for his parents at their Shrewsbury restaurant.

George Papageorgiou ’23 figured a career in food services would be a great backup plan if his degree in Cybersecurity Management didn’t work out. He has years of experience in the field, after all, working in his parents’ restaurant.

Now, after a few weeks of intense crisis management at his parents' Shrewsbury business, the 20-year-old York College of Pennsylvania junior says restaurant work is off his list of possibilities. And his parents agree. “They would rather I go back to college for another four years before I work in another restaurant,” he says.

Facing crisis

It happened in August, when Papageorgiou's parents took a three-week trip to Greece. Papageorgiou stepped in to manage New Freedom Restaurant & Coffee Shop, which his parents have owned for more than 14 years.

He's been on the payroll for about six years, he says, although he's worked there as long as he can remember. He felt confident taking charge but admits his experience had never been tested because either his mom or my dad were always present.

It was time for his final exam. Papageorgiou had a two-week break from classes during his parents' vacation, making it easier for him to take charge of the restaurant and about a dozen employees.

Then, things went sideways. On the third day after his parents left, one of the cooks quit. “That was challenging,” Papageorgiou says. “We were already short-staffed.”

He hit the grill himself, since everyone was already working overtime in the kitchen. It took nearly four months to replace the cook. But that wasn't his biggest concern.

“I got a call from one of our vendors. He said they'd be unable to deliver food for about two months,” Papageorgiou recalls. He called his father in Greece, who suggested increasing their orders from other vendors.

The next day, another vendor called: No deliveries for at least three weeks. The restaurant uses four vendors for food, Papageorgiou says, so when the third one called to cancel deliveries, he started to panic. A restaurant needs a supply of fresh food to function, and they'd been expecting a shipment the following day.

“I tried contacting other vendors. None of them returned my calls,” he says.

Finding solutions

So, he put his crisis management skills to work. Papageorgiou says he kept his parents informed but didn't want to stress them out.

One vendor said he could still get food if he picked it up himself, so Papageorgiou doubled the order and borrowed pickup trucks and SUVs from friends and family to transport 3,000 pounds of potatoes, 400 pounds of bacon, 300 pounds of ground beef, and a whole bunch of cheeses and other things.

Fortunately, his uncle found a trailer they could use to move the produce. “We had no idea how long it would be until we got another shipment,” he says.

Another vendor said deliveries could resume in two weeks if he was willing to change their schedule. For some vendors, Papageorgiou explains, the food shortage was less of a concern than a lack of drivers and warehouse workers.

Some items couldn't be found at all, so they had to be taken off the menu or replaced. “Customers were always understanding,” he says, though he admits “they didn't want the substitute fries I bought.”

Keeping data safe

As for his major, Papageorgiou says he found his calling at a York College open house.

“I always wanted to do something in technology,” he says. He attended a talk on cybersecurity and “knew this was what I wanted to do. It's so interesting, and it's brand new.”

The field, he explains, is about keeping information—passwords, credit cards, etc.—safe. He and several classmates formed an honors fraternity to facilitate networking and resource sharing in the cybersecurity and criminal justice fields.

“You know, I never liked school...but once I started in this field, it totally changed for me,” Papageorgiou says. “I love my classes. I love studying.”

Ultimately, he credits his major with helping him through the crisis at the restaurant.

“With cybersecurity we had a whole class on information warfare—using your brain and using what you have around you to solve problems,” he says. “It really connected, during those three weeks with my parents being gone...It was crazy stuff.”

He's satisfied he did a good job in a bad situation. “I feel like I handled it very well,” Papageorgiou says. “We made it through COVID-19, and we never had to cut our staff or close.”